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Cityscape: Volume 16 Number 1 | Article 2


Housing, Contexts, and the Well-Being of Children and Youth

Volume 16, Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Profiles of Housing and Neighborhood Contexts Among Low-Income Families: Links With Children’s Well-Being

Rebekah Levine Coley
Melissa Kull
Boston College

Tama Leventhal
Tufts University

Alicia Doyle Lynch
Boston College


Low-income families face numerous constraints but also opportunities in accessing affordable, decent, and stable housing in safe neighborhoods. These factors, in combination with individual preferences and priorities, lead to a diverse array of housing experiences. This study assessed the housing and neighborhood profiles of a representative sample of low-income families with children living in high-poverty urban neighborhoods in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio (N = 2,393). Latent class analyses delineated four profiles of housing and neighborhood characteristics with distinct patterns of housing cost, housing problems, neighborhood disorder, residential instability, and homeownership. Profile 1 featured high cost, high housing and neighborhood problems, moderate residential instability, and high private rentals; Profile 2 featured high cost, low housing problems and neighborhood disorder, moderate residential instability, and prevalent owned homes and private rentals; Profile 3 featured low cost, and high housing problems, neighborhood disorder, residential stability, and assisted housing; and Profile 4 featured low cost, low housing problems and neighborhood disorder, high residential instability, and high assisted housing. Maternal, family, and broader community characteristics varied across these profiles, suggesting the endogeneity between families and their housing and neighborhood contexts. Individual fixed-effects regression models found that housing and neighborhood profiles were associated with children’s functioning, with the primary pattern indicating that Profile 2 was associated with superior reading skills and fewer emotional and behavioral problems among children than other housing and neighborhood profiles. The results highlight the importance of assessing families’ holistic bundle of housing and neighborhood characteristics rather than attempting to isolate unique effects of characteristics that are inherently interrelated.

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